The group exists in relation to church communities, church buildings and other places of worship of all religions in Kent (including their contents, churchyards and associated buildings) to promote: study of their history and archaeology; publication of the results of such study; and, the spread of public knowledge of, and interest in, them.
The Committee consists of a panel of people interested in church buildings, spanning a wide range of backgrounds. Some of us are have architectural interests, others are archivists, archaeologists and local historians.
Kent Churches – Architectural & Historical Information with ‘Tim Tatton-Brown’s surveys of individual Kent Churches’
The Restoration Church and the Parish Sat 15th October 2016, 10.00–16.00 King Charles the Martyr, London Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent
This will be the fourth parish study day organised by the churches committee. Chronologically, the parish in the Middle Ages was explored at St Leonard’s church, Hythe, to be followed by living through the Reformation at St Dunstan’s church on the outskirts of Canterbury. The nineteenth-century Oxford Movement and its legacy was the subject at Holy Trinity, Folkestone, and in 2016 there will be a shift back in time to the Restoration Church of the late seventeenth century at Tunbridge Wells, a church built during the period at a cost of over £2,200.
The Restoration of Charles II brought the re-establishment of Anglicanism and the return of the bishops, but rather than a return to the national church of Archbishop Laud, historians consider the settlement of 1662 marked an understanding that there was no going back to 1640. Instead there appears to have been an acceptance, at least initially, of the need for at least some sort of compromise in an attempt to provide parochial worship that could be accepted by most people. For even though the revised Book of Common Prayer was reinstated, to the annoyance of many Puritans, at first there seems to have been a willingness to live and let live by the authorities. Of course, for some dissenters such compromises were impossible and a significant number of parish clergy from the Cromwellian period were deprived of their livings for failing to conform. Until 1674 some of these men aided dissenters to worship collectively in secret, as only thereafter were such dissenting congregations able to meet openly. At the other end of the religious spectrum there were still Roman Catholics, but in Kent such recusants were predominantly members of the county gentry and their tenants.
Religious belief and how this should be expressed through organised worship continued to be hot topics for contemporaries, albeit the bitter disputes of the 1640s and 1650s had been largely left behind by most, or forced underground by the repressive laws against dissent of the Clarendon Code. And it is this restored church at the level of the parish within the context of the religious settlements of the late seventeenth century that will be explored by participants of the study day in Tunbridge Wells. Moreover it is especially fitting that it will take place at one of the very few churches dedicated to King Charles the Martyr, thereby adding a further intriguing element to the day’s programme.
Following the successful format employed at previous study days, in the morning participants will be treated to a number of illustrated lectures that will introduce the locality and provide a contextual framework for the study of the Restoration Church and Parish. The speakers will be Dr Philip Whitbourn, the author of several works on the church and the town, who will introduce late seventeenth-century Tunbridge Wells; Rebecca Warren, who is nearing completion of her doctoral study of the Cromwellian Church and its ministers at the University of Kent. She will provide an assessment of the Anglican Church from the Civil War period to the Act of Toleration (1689). She will be followed by Dr Matthew Reynolds, an ecclesiastical historian, who will consider perceptions of Charles as martyr in late seventeenth-century England.
Following lunch provided within the price of the ticket, the focus for the afternoon will turn to the parish church of King Charles the Martyr. Participants will be split into groups (by ticket colour) and explore either the church building or church documents, under the guidance of members of the churches committee and parish. Again, as previously, it is hoped to have original documents at the church (under the care of a qualified archivist and churches committee member), as well as copies of contemporary documents for participants to study. After a tea break the groups will swop over so that all can investigate both the building and documents, and the day will close following a final short period of discussion.